El Celler de Can Roca back on top

El Celler de Can Roca re-gained the top spot when the cream of the culinary world gathered in London for the 2015 World’s 50 Best restaurants. Tina Nielsen was there

The night belonged to Spain when the world’s top chefs gathered in London for the 2015 edition of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants. More specifically it belonged to the three brothers behind El Celler de Can Roca in Girona, Spain, who knocked Danish chef Rene Redzepi and his restaurant Noma off the top spot. It is the second time the brothers have taken the crown from Redzepi – the first time was in 2013 before he re-gained it at last year’s awards.

Noma itself moved two spots down to third as Massimo Botura’s Modena restaurant Osteria Francescana in Italy came in as runner-up.

Spain had seven entries in the top 50 and it is the only country to have two restaurants in the top 10. Alongside the winner sits Mugaritz, outside San Sebastian, which remains at number six.

For El Celler de Can Roca, head chef Joan, sommelier Josep and pastry chef Jordi were obviously delighted at their comeback. “We are in a state of shock,” said Joan. “There are so many big restaurants on the list and they could all be in the top spot.”

Having won this accolade before they well know what it means – they described it as an honour as well as an important responsibility. “This gives you so much visibility on the world stage. But it is also an opportunity to get recognition for your region. It is a chance to act as an ambassador for your country,” said Jordi.

Being close as brothers in the restaurant has helped them be successful, they said. “We have known each other for a long time, we are generous with each other and the complicity gives us confidence.”

Notable among the movers were Central in Lima, Peru, which moved a massive nine places from 15th to fourth and the highest climber of the year, Spanish Asador Extebarri, which jumped from 34 last year to 13. Moving in the other direction Chicago’s Alinea dropped from 10 to 20 and Thomas Keller’s The French Laundry from 44 to 50. North America did have a good night with six entries in the list. Asia for the first time featured twice in the top 10 with entries from Japan and Thailand.

The highest new entry was from Russia as White Rabbit entered at 23.

The evening turned out well for South America too, with a total of nine entries. While France has five spots none of them came in the top 10. The UK saw just two entries, both of which have dropped, but both remain in the top 20 – Dinner by Heston Blumenthal at number seven and the Ledbury came in at 20.

The awards took place after a couple of weeks of controversy around the list and French protest site Occupy 50 Best, claiming that the lack of transparency made the list invalid. To those chefs present at the event, at least, lists such as this and others such as the Elite Traveler Top 100 Restaurants, remains significant. “It is easy to find faults and things that annoy you about any list, but the World’s 50 Best has changed world gastronomy,” said Redzepi. “Without the list we wouldn’t be talking about a culinary revolution in Copenhagen, Denmark or the Nordics. It has been absolutely unique for us.”

Among the individual awards was Daniel Boulud of Restaurant Daniel in New York City, which this year slipped into the bottom half of the list. When he accepted the lifetime achievement award he stressed that he still has a lot to accomplish. He cited the French Nouvelle Cuisine movement as his inspiration and foundation when he started cooking 46 years ago. “This movement was the foundation of the culinary revolution,” he said. “Whether you put on your chef’s whites or your hipster apron this is the foundation of cooking today.”

Daniel Humm, the Swiss chef of New York’s 11 Madison Park took the Chef’s Choice gong. Before the ceremony Noma’s Redzepi described Humm’s cooking as amazing. “This is one of those places you go and you just know you are in New York,” he said. “You can go to tourist places and you know them because you saw them on TV, but where do you go to eat New York? You go to 11 Madison Park.”

Hélène Darroze of the Connaught in London was honoured with the award for best female chef. She told the room that her kitchen would see more female than male chefs in the next few weeks. “This is not deliberate just a fact. Be ready, guys, to welcome more women in the future,” she said.

William Drew, group editor of the World’s 50 best restaurants said about the 2015 edition of the list: It has been a hugely exciting year with such a variety of culinary talents celebrated here tonight. We are proud to bring together this unique community of extraordinary talent within the industry.”

He also announced that the 2016 awards ceremony would take place in New York City instead of London where it has so far been celebrated every year. This could be seen as an acknowledgement of the trend for the top restaurants in the world to stage residencies and pop-ups in other countries – The Fat Duck in Melbourne, Noma in Japan. It is a global movement and to develop you need to move.

As Daniel Boulud said, all eyes should be on the future of cooking: “The responsibility of everyone in the community now is the next generation. It is not what we built yesterday, but what we are going to build tomorrow.”

For the full list visit theworlds50best.com

Tina Nielsen

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